First Resolution

Are you feeling guilty yet over those holiday pounds and indulgences? Well, read on, because I’m about to make you feel a whole lot worse.

Here’s a fun fact about me: I’ve never once made a New Years resolution. I haven’t made one and then not stuck to it- I mean I’ve actually never made one. I figure if you need a life change no date on a calendar is going to help you. Until now. It just so happens that I need a change immediately. My first ever resolution is- to give up chocolate. Not for my waistline, for my conscience.

It all started with my one woman mission to ban candy sales from my kids’ private school. This is for many reasons: hating fund raisers, hating selling things, really hating selling bad chocolate. I’m opposed to my kindergartener going door to door, I’m also opposed to me going door to door. But mostly I’m put off by the fact that as a Christian school and Christian family we are ‘loving our neighbors’ deeper and deeper into the obesity epidemic. I don’t want my 6 year old eating a bar of chocolate and I don’t want yours to either.

Last year my response was to hide in shame when the boxes of 50 bars were sent home with the warning that what you don’t sell you still have to pay for. Envisioning a box of 48 chocolate bars sitting on my kitchen counter for the next 3 months strengthened me to not accept that dastardly box. I was the bad mom; worse, the uninvolved mom. Out of sheer guilt we ended up picking 100 avocados off our tree, selling them 2 for a buck and donating the money to the school.

This year I’ve decided to stop hiding and actually do something pro-active. My mission is to find a better fundraiser that can also bring in the same level of cash as the dreaded candy sale. Because A) I love our school and B) There’s nothing worse than a whiny mom who complains about something but offers no alternatives.

Your holiday not ruined yet? Stay with me.

In the back of my mind I remembered a Huffington Post article I read about a year ago regarding child slaves in cocoa production. At the time I went ahead and filed that in my brain under Things That Suck That I Can’t Do Anything About and went on my way inhaling peanut butter snickers. As a side note, I will miss you, peanut butter snickers. So. So. Much.

So I decided to do some research to make my argument to the PTA more convincing. That was my first mistake. What follows is what I get for trying to make people feel badly with snarky arguments in the first place.

Turns out children are slaves in cocoa production.

Let that sink in for just a second. There are children right now in bondage, under terrible conditions, not playing, not in school, torn away from their families. They are in bondage because the people who buy and sell them profit off of their free labor. There are children that are in slavery so that you and me and our children can eat cheap chocolate. Because you see, if the workers were paid a fair wage, chocolate would be much more expensive to us, and as I’m learning more and more, us Americans are addicted to artificially low prices.

Now I know I’m losing some of you, as I was lost the first time I heard about this. How on earth could little old me make that much of a difference for good or bad in an industry worth 80 billion dollars? (Yes, that’s Billion. With a B)

Also, how could I change my chocolate-y ways? Even if I only purchased fair trade chocolate (which is the only way to know for sure that slaves weren’t used in any stage of the production) what to do about everything else? What about the chocolate milk my kids love? What about my Starbucks mochas? What about those delicious trail mix bars from Trader Joe’s with those teensy tiny adorable chips in them? What about my PEANUT BUTTER SNICKERS.

Well, start by watching the documentary, Chocolate: The Bitter Truth

Then read this article

Also, this one:

And just for kicks, this one too:

Like me, you may be thinking this is one of so many injustices. There are child sex slaves in Cambodia (and across the globe in reality) child slaves of war in Uganda, child labor in most third world countries. We can’t possibly fix all of the world’s problems. We can’t dwell on it, thinking of these atrocities while watching our own kids frolic and play. The guilt is too much for us and we shut down.

But I’m realizing we don’t have the luxury of shutting down when we significantly contribute to a problem. America is the number one consumer of chocolate on the planet.

That’s the rub my friends. The chocolate companies won’t demand better conditions for their workers unless the consumer demands it. The most effective way a consumer can demand it is to stop paying for it. That is my resolution for 2013- that I will not contribute financially to this problem anymore. Goodbye peanut butter snickers. It was good while it lasted.

Sorry for ruining your day. Happy New Year.

2 thoughts on “First Resolution

  1. Nancy Pryor says:

    Oh wow. That’s not good. Would that also include your perfect chocolate chip cookies too? Do they make fair trade chocolate chips? What about Carob? Is it under the ban too? Gonna do my best to support this effort.

  2. Melanie says:

    Aly, you have rung my bell, and I will get to the part about chocolate.

    As a non-parent, increasingly snarky, supporter of school fundraisers, you have emboldened me to speak. Straight up, it costs an enormous amount of money to run a school and provide equal experiences to an economically divergent if not outright distressed student population and I would gladly consider the option of sponsoring a child, so parent groups can offer the complement of activities or whatever it is they do with the money they raise.

    So let’s begin with WHAT’s going on with the ‘fundraiser’ money; field trips, classroom supplies, school plays, what? No one ever explains why after parents pay tuition, and ‘friends of the school’ are solicited for scholarships, we are short money. I’m not being critical of the objective. I simply have never received an answer, and people who don’t know WHY they are doing something are poorly equipped to address how it should be done.

    We are approached on every level of relationship from family to strangers at the grocery store to buy all manner of overpriced stuff I don’t want ‘for the children’. Saying NO is intended to make you look tight fisted, cold hearted and mean. No one asks for more than $10, although they have options for the willing; my problem is almost everyone is mindlessly asking. SNARK ALERT: Yes, ‘overpriced’ includes those ‘discounted’ magazine subscriptions, which are in fact wholly paid for by the advertisers. We are PAYING for the privilege of increasing the publisher’s circulation numbers, in turn supporting the ad rates to the advertisers. I do not consider this a discount, when in fact I never would be subscribing in the first place, except to ‘for the children’ and Hearst Publications. Have you not been to the castle?

    This year I tried to open a dialog by asking, how much money does the parent group need to raise? Can I just sponsor a child? I skipped asking ‘what for’ on the money, because I could tell I was already considered difficult. The only answer I received from the school was “$15,000 in magazine sales; ever little bit helps”. Now, that was not the question I asked, so first I am disappointed people leading the children either don’t understand the question or are so wedded to the outcome they aren’t listening. I ache to know how much of the $15,000 stayed at the school.

    Why are we not appalled at the idea of pimping our children for corporate trinkets? Fundraising ‘for the children’ is BIG business, like cereal and fast food. It’s profitable because doing it ‘for the children’ is an easy, relatively low cost appeasement sale that funds Hearst, Hershey’s, McD’s and the rest of them. They make it ‘easy and fun’, and in return get an army of low paid salesmen in every school, sports team, music band and choir.

    Are we so consumer centric that bad chocolate derived from child slave labor will open more wallets than a child we know getting an education? It’s hard work to raise money and money is hard won by every family and business privileged enough to have some. How does it makes sense to split every dollar given with by selling our children to a corporation?

    Oh~! This Christmas I determined to practice until I learned how to make a simple chocolate torte… now I have another reason to stop.

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